The current Turner Prize winner and esteemed Sculptor Veronica Ryan OBE was among seven Honorary Doctorates awarded by Bath Spa University at Summer Graduation ceremonies this week.
Veronica was awarded alongside over 1500 undergraduates who received their degree certificates at ceremonies held over three days at The Forum in Bath City Centre.
Veronica Ryan won arguably the most prestigious and most controversial art accolade in the UK in December 2022. Ryan studied for a BA in Fine Art at the Corsham Court campus-based Bath Academy of Art (now Bath Spa University’s Bath School of Art, Film and Media, at Locksbrook campus) from 1975-1978 and she went on to establish an internationally revered exhibition profile, winning numerous awards across the globe.
The Turner Prize is awarded in recognition of an artist’s outstanding exhibition, or presentation, of their recent developments in British art. At 66 years of age, Ryan is the oldest recipient of the Turner Prize to date. Born in 1956 in Plymouth, Montserrat, she moved to London with her parents as an infant.Ryan created the UK’s first permanent public artwork in honour of the Windrush generation, in Hackney in London which was unveiled in October 2021.
Ryan’s tribute to the people who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean between the late 1940s and 1970s was also inspired by her memories of visiting Hackney’s Ridley Road Market as a child. Her oversized marble and bronze sculptures representing Caribbean fruit and vegetables such as breadfruit, soursop and custard apple and it was this sculptural installation that led to her nomination for the Turner Prize. The judging panel of the Turner Prize said her win was in honour of “the personal and poetic way she extends the language of sculpture” and the “noticeable shift in her use of space, colour and scale both in gallery and civic spaces”.
Dan Allen, Head of Bath Spa University’s Bath School of Art, Film and Media, said:
“As an alumni of Bath School of Art, Film & Media (formally Bath Academy of Art), Veronica Ryan is also a beacon for our talented artists, as they embark on professional careers with a mission to make positive change in the world through art.”
Accepting her honorary degree, Veronica Ryan OBE, said:
“Play is terribly important. Early access to possibility, kind teachers and tutors, using what you have – these all enable continuity. People remind me that as artists, periods of drought are part of the journey. My own journey has been to keep doing what feels most important, for self care. I would like to thank the University for the recognition shown to me with the honour of this reward, of this degree.”
Also receiving Honorary Doctorates were Carl Anka,Awarded Honorary Doctor of Arts, a Bath Spa University graduate, journalist, broadcaster and author based in Manchester who has spent his postgraduate years writing for the BBC, the Guardian, VICE, NME, GQ and BuzzFeed and The Athletic. Carl co-authored Marcus Rashford’s book You Are a Champion (Macmillan), The book was WHSmith’s Book of the Year, and won Best Overall Book of the Year at the 2022 The British Book Awards.
“I stand before you today humbled and deeply honoured to accept this honorary doctorate. I want to express my deepest appreciation to my mentors, my teachers, my friends, my family; everyone who has stood by me and believed in me during my time at Bath Spa University and the many years I’ve spent since graduating.
“My fellow graduates, I leave you today with a challenge: to remain curious. You are sitting here celebrating the current pinnacle of your academic learning. I ask you to keep learning. I want you to keep pushing in your quest for knowledge no matter what field you take or what walks of life you lead. University is a place of academic study, yes, but perhaps more importantly university is where you learn how to learn. You spent years at Bath Spa University chasing academic and personal pursuits, while also learning parts of your personality as they unfolded in front of you.
“Take courage from this moment. Deadlines may get brought forward, jobs may come and go, but when you remain curious, you remain capable of fantastic things. You sit here now equipped with the tools to have a positive impact on your life, the lives of people around you and the world around you as well. Use your education to try and address the pressing challenges of our time. Let’s all strive to be positive forces for change and ambassadors for compassion as well. Thank you for letting me share this day with you. As we accept these accolades today, may we do so with the commitment to making a meaningful difference in the world. Remain curious, my friends.”
Christopher Crowther was also Awarded Honorary Doctor of Science. With over 25 years’ experience in the information assurance and security domain, Chris Crowther works at C-Suite level leading several cyber, information protection and resilience challenges. Chris has led the delivery of some of the most demanding national security programmes in the UK, the US and EMEA, operating at the very highest levels of government. Where possible, he shares his knowledge and experience with Bath Spa University, the US National Defence University and UK Defence.
“I know the team here at the University have done an absolutely amazing job at giving you the skills, experience and approach; I beg you not to forget that as you go forward into your careers…The secret is that you take agency for yourselves. Each day going forward, take that agency and do the very best that you can. Success is seldom final and failure is rarely fatal…It’s about resilience. Good things will happen, bad things will happen.
What you’ve got to remember is what will and can you do about it, and then go and do it. Enjoy the moment and celebrate your amazing achievements…If you want to stay happy, stay humble. Staying humble is not weak, it is about appreciating the world that has got you to where you are now, and will take you into the future…Staying humble gives you a strong moral compass, and trust me, a strong moral compass is exactly what you will need for when times get hard, and at some point they will.
“I must say a huge thanks to all the team at Bath Spa for the amazing opportunities that I’ve had, and some of the great projects we’ve worked on in the cyber security space, that are now coming to fruition. I also get a huge buzz from the courses that I teach on, because the people are absolutely amazing, and it’s not uncommon that they know more than I do and that leaves me with a lot of encouragement, both for our future, and for the University.
I am really privileged to be surrounded by such incredible people, including all of you here today. That leaves me confident that we are in really good hands and it’s a real honour for me to be here and accept the award today. I feel really blessed…I wish you all the very best for whatever life throws at you. Keep moving forward and make sure you take everyone along on the adventure as you go.”
Professor Sue Rigby, Vice-Chancellor of Bath Spa University, said:
“Our summer graduation ceremonies are a wonderful occasion and something that I look forward to celebrating each year. Graduation is a chance for our Bath Spa community to come together and recognise each and every one of our remarkable students and their achievements.
“It is also a marvellous opportunity for us to be able to award honorary degrees to inspirational people. Individuals whose own journeys will no doubt leave a lasting impression on our learners, at a time that is pivotal to whichever path they choose next.
“It is a pleasure to be able to recognise our newly inducted honorary graduates in this way, and pay homage to the outstanding achievements and contributions they too have made in their own academic fields, professions and society.”
Around 1550 students will graduate from Bath Spa University this summer. As part of the celebration ceremonies, each year, the University continues to confer honorary awards to individuals who have made a notable and sustained contribution to their academic fields or profession, to society, or to the University.
All Bath Spa staff, with input from students, are able to propose potential recipients of honorary awards, and nominees are approved by the University’s Board of Governors. For a list of previous honorary graduates, you can visit our Honorary Graduates page.
Also receiving Honorary Doctorate degrees were:
Kathy Hinde Awarded Honorary Doctor of Music
Kathy Hinde is a Bath Spa University graduate and audiovisual artist whose practice embraces open methods and evolving processes. Through installations, performances and site specific experiences, she aims to nurture a deeper and more embodied connection to other species and the earth’s systems. Kathy has toured work across the globe and has received awards including an Ivor Novello, an Honorary Mention at Prix Ars Electronica, a British Composer Award in Sonic Art an ORAM award and a Scottish Award for New Music. Kathy is also a member of Bristol Experimental Expanded Film (BEEF), and a resident at the Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol. Following her studies at Bath Spa, Kathy has maintained a connection with the University through interdisciplinary research projects across music, art, education and environmental science.
Kate Morton Awarded Honorary Doctor of Science
Kate Morton is the CEO of mental health charity, Bath Mind. Kate has worked as a senior leader in housing, health, and social care, and has overseen the creation of supportive safe spaces for some of the most disadvantaged in our society. Diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008, she made the decision to volunteer for a local mental health charity as part of her recovery. She joined Bath Mind’s Board of Trustees in 2011 and became CEO in 2015. The organisation has grown fourfold under her leadership, expanding its reach, and focusing on university students and young adults across both Bath. Kate is currently Chair of Bath’s 3SG, and leads on local innovative community projects.
Andrew Grant Awarded Honorary Doctor of Letters
Andrew is a landscape architect whose work explores the reconnection between people and nature. He started his company, Grant Associates, in 1997 and it is now an international design studio with offices in Bath and Singapore. He uses creative ecological design to find solutions to climate change, biodiversity loss and improving human quality of life, health and wellbeing. He has previously been awarded the title of RSA Royal Designer for Industry in recognition of his pioneering global work. He is an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA, Chair of the Bathscape Landscape Partnership and a member of the Bath World Heritage Site Advisory Board. He is also co-founder of the Bath pop-up festival, Forest of Imagination.
Adam Rutherford Awarded Honorary Doctor of Science
Adam Rutherford is a geneticist, author and broadcaster. He did his first degree at UCL in genetics, his PhD at the Institute of Child Health at Great Ormond St Hospital, which is part of UCL, and is now a lecturer of Biology and Society at UCL. Adam is a regular on BBC Radio 4, presenting many documentaries, as well as Start the Week, and the Curious Cases of Rutherford and Fry. He has written several books, including most recently Control: the Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics, and the international bestsellers How to Argue With a Racist, and A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived.